Waze, the mapping application that Facebook is said to be close to buying, has put together a map of the world by harnessing the power of cell phones sitting in the pockets or center consoles of drivers worldwide.
The Israeli’s company’s first employee, Fej (Yuval) Shmuelevitz, visited USC recently to chat with a group of Jewish students interested in business. Fej, the vice president of community and operations, explained some of the unique ways Waze has been able to market itself for free.
–A homebuilder in the Midwest emailed Waze saying he loved the app. He wants to work with Waze to build maps of the new communities he’s building. Right now, clients and customers have trouble navigating to the sites. But he hopes to be able to tell people to download Waze. It would have maps of the newly built communities far before Google, Bing, Nokia or TomTom.
–Someone in Israel started a trend of putting what amounts to a QR code on wedding invitations. When scanned, it launches Waze and provides directions to the wedding locale. Fej estimated more than 50 percent of wedding invites have a Waze barcode.
–-Waze has worked with local television stations to provide the traffic maps for newscasts. Neither Waze nor the news stations bears any costs. Waze benefits from the daily exposure.
–The company has also worked with other reporters to provide free reports about traffic crises or other interesting data related to stories.
–During Hurricane Sandy, Waze worked with government agencies to point people to the few gas stations that still had supplies.
Fej said Waze receives or internally produces 100 new ideas a week. Under Facebook’s umbrella, the number would only grow. One of the ideas that’s been talked about is a Google Latitude-like private group feature that would allow users to share their locations with groups of friends.
He also noted Google doesn’t want a monopoly in mapping because it would get more scrutiny more regulators. “They’re very happy that there’s competition,” he said.